Friday 1 April 2016

My favourite corner of the heath

Does anyone else have a list of scenes they'd like to act out one day? Or perhaps experiences would be a better word.

I'm thinking of specific places they'd like to visit for the purpose of X, Y or Z. For instance, in my head is an image of a picnic at Blackheath. A large, colourful blanket spread on the grass, a basket stuffed with sandwiches and a large thermos flask of wine – no annoying plastic cups. The picnic could either comprise me and Rupert Penry-Jones* or it could be a large group, split into chatterers, small-scale sport players and one or two readers. Were it a twosome, Rupert would naturally be quietly reading aloud, preferably from one of my favourite classics, but I'd be equally happy in the group, quietly devouring my latest novel while occasionally looking up to try to work out whatever game was being played.

In reality such a picnic with me and an internationally-famous heartthrob could take place anywhere, and would probably be more suited to one of the smaller, more private grassy enclaves scattered across the capital, but there's something about the large houses lining Blackheath that make me locate it there. Of course, part of the appeal is also the knowledge of its proximity to a good bookshop.

Visit the right corner and just across the road you'll spot the bright and welcoming exterior of The Bookshop on the Heath.

From the front this looks to be a slightly larger than average bookshop, perfect for if I happened to finish my book mid-picnic. Step inside and you soon realise how visitors to the Tardis must feel.

My first view from inside the door was of a cosy entrance to a smart looking secondhand bookshop, but move a few paces towards the till and you see a long wall of books stretching through two rooms to the back. Throw in what felt like a hidden hallway and several more rooms downstairs and there's no way I'll ever mange to stay outside and enjoy that fantasy picnic: the temptation of The Bookshop on the Heath would be too strong.

From good quality, interesting hardbacks to general paperback fiction and everything in between I happily lost a lot of time browsing and struggling to limit myself to only one book. The range of books, in both subject and price, mean this is surely a place for anyone to visit.

I spent a long time admiring the children's section near the till, enjoying the bookshop conversations and general friendliness, before taking several turns around the shop and with each circuit a new book or detail would catch my eye. With such a wide variety of stock I can only repeat myself in telling you just how broad the contents of The Bookshop on the Heath are. Every area had something to make me stop and think "I need that book".

However it was the science fiction section that finally won my attention. As a fan of the old-ish greats I consider it a very rare treat to find a sci fi offering as large as The Bookshop on the Heath's, meaning it was a joy to dawdle over these bookcases. Even more exciting to me was finding an Arthur C Clarke book I'd not yet read: Childhood's End.

Eventually tearing myself away from the books, I made my way to the till and said hello to the booksellers. I then promptly said goodbye because I realised I'd no cash and wouldn't dream of asking to put one book on a card. Thankfully, booksellers are lovely and so they kindly kept my book, provided directions to the nearest cash machine and assured me they wouldn't be closing before I returned. Phew!

While I wish the day had been warm enough for that picnic with Rupert, The Bookshop on the Heath was an engrossing, welcoming and relaxing enough environment to ensure I felt no disappointment at a lack of cucumber sandwiches and checked blanket: I'll save those for the day of my return visit.

The Bookshop on the Heath
74 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath,
London, SE3 0BW
Tel: 020 8852 4786

*Or other suitable male, applications welcome.


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